sur·​re·​al | \ sə-ˈrē(-ə)l also -ˈrā-əl How to pronounce surreal (audio) \

Definition of surreal

1 : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream also : unbelievable, fantastic surreal sums of money

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from surreal

surreality \ (ˌ)sə-​rē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce surreality (audio) \ noun
surreally adverb

Did You Know?

In 1924 a group of European poets, painters, and filmmakers founded a movement that they called Surrealism. Their central idea was that the unconscious mind (a concept Sigmund Freud had recently made famous) was the source of all imagination, and that art should try to express its contents. The unconscious, they believed, revealed itself most clearly in dreams. The Surrealist painters included René Magritte, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí, whose "limp watches" painting became the best-known Surrealist image of all. Since those years, we've used surreal to describe all kinds of situations that strike us as dreamlike. And even though the Surrealist movement ended long ago, surrealism now seems to be everywhere—not just in painting, literature, and movies but also in blogs, video games, and graphic novels.

Examples of surreal in a Sentence

Despite all the hassle, though, I would not want an ordinary name. I know of one other person in the world who shares my name, first and last. I know nothing about her except that she lived in New York at the same time I did, and that she and I subscribed to a few of the same publications. I found myself in the surreal position of having to explain to circulation departments that I was, in fact, me, and not that other version of me on the West Side. — Johnna Kaplan, Newsweek, 3 Mar. 2008 Films aren't just a part of life for people in India; they are a way of life. The over-the-top, surreal dance numbers in nearly every Bollywood film often make no sense in relation to the story, but no one seems to be complaining. — Shashank Samant, The Out Traveler, May/June 2005 The movie achieves a truly rare mix of the absurd, the surreal, and the heartfelt. Improbably, its wacked-out premise and structural hilarity concoct a melancholy meditation on love, loss, and memory, while delivering a message—subversive to our culture's therapeutic optimism—about the tragedy of healing. — Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal, 23 Apr. 2004 The whole thing was completely surreal.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The darker aspects of the comic were abandoned for the more kid-friendly animated series, although Edlund kept the satire, absurdist/surreal scenarios, and cheeky irreverence. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Ars celebrates 25 years of The Tick by picking our top ten favorite episodes," 10 Sep. 2019 Netflix has announced that the surreal superhero show — based on the comics by writer Gerard Way and artist Gabriel Bá — will return for season 2 with the main cast intact. Christian Holub,, "The Umbrella Academy casts three actors as new, non-comic characters," 10 Sep. 2019 Benghazi), the U.S. response to Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the surreal transition to the Trump administration. Rachel King, Fortune, "12 Books on Business and Journalism to Add to Your Fall Reading List," 7 Sep. 2019 Courtesy of Pando Manipon Courtesy of Pando Manipon For what started as—and is still very much—a retirement hobby, Pando says showing his work to the public still seems surreal at times. Anne Quito, Quartzy, "An ingenious Filipino artist creates mosaics with dead leaves and garlic peels," 1 Sep. 2019 Even the most mundane moments in Control are suffuse with a surreal energy, a sense that anything could happen around the next bend. Wired, "Control Is a Paranoiac's Dream Turned Into a Videogame," 29 Aug. 2019 From squatting prime ministers to a writing letters to the EU and the Queen sacking Boris Johnson, Brexit can feel pretty surreal. Luke Mcgee, CNN, "The UK can't even have a proper constitutional crisis," 7 Aug. 2019 Last weekend, two divers exploring the waters off the coast of Cornwall, England, had a surreal encounter with a roughly 5-foot-long barrel jellyfish. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Divers Encounter a Human-Size Jellyfish Off the Coast of England," 18 July 2019 The 2019 Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame was a surreal moment for this year's inductees including Nate Northington, Deion Branch and Derek Anderson. Robert Rimpson, The Courier-Journal, "Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch expects 'big things' from Louisville football vs. Notre Dame," 1 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'surreal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of surreal

1937, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for surreal

back-formation from surrealism

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surreal

Dictionary Entries near surreal








Statistics for surreal

Last Updated

18 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for surreal

The first known use of surreal was in 1937

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surreal



English Language Learners Definition of surreal

: very strange or unusual : having the quality of a dream

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on surreal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for surreal

Spanish Central: Translation of surreal

Nglish: Translation of surreal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of surreal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on surreal

What made you want to look up surreal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!